Stephen Errity, GT Correspondent
The 2012 Nurburgring 24 Hours remains finely poised as it heads towards its sixth hour, with several Audi, Mercedes and BMW teams all challenging closely for the overall lead. The race has now settled into a pitstop rhythmn, with the #19 lead works BMW of Muller/Muller/Alzen/Adorf shuffling back and forth from the lead as it stops out of sequence with most of the other Top 10 runners. With all of them running reasonably similar laptimes and no big gaps emerging, it will take a driver mistake, reliability issue or extended pitstop to eliminate any of them from contention.
Among the #19's closest challengers is the #65 Hankook-Heico Mercedes SLS AMG of Heyer/Schneider/Arnold/Margaritis, while the #26 Mamerow Racing Audi has stayed in contention after falling back a little in the first hour and now lies third. There's an intra-team battle brewing between the #2 and #3 Team Phoenix Audis (in fourth and fifth at the time of writing), while seventh and and eighth are also occupied by Audi and Mercedes teams – the #9 Raeder Motorsport and #22 Rowe Racing entries. One car that is making gradual but steady progress up the field is one of the pre-race favourites, the #11 Manthey Porsche of Lieb/Lietz/Luhr/Dumas, which has hauled itself from the lower reaches of the top 10 to become a solid top-five entry.
Elsewhere, Aston Martin's hopes of challenging the German marques at the head of the field have evaporated and its lead works GT3 cars are now simply chasing a race finish. The #006 of Mucke/Enge/Mathai/Bart had to have a wheel changed after an early puncture, while the #007 spent a long time in the garage getting a new clutch. The #90 Haribo Corvette of Magnussen, Westbrook, Milner and Keilwitz is another quick runner out of serious contention but still aiming for a finish after its earlier battery troubles were repaired and it rejoined.
Finally, there was a scary incident when Klaus Ludwig crashed heavily in the Gemballa Racing McLaren MP4-12C while overtaking a slower touring-car runner on the Dottinger Hohe straight, ending both cars' races after approximately four hours.
See Hours 1-2 report